Sajha’s green buses go greener

Public transport company gets green light for Nepal’s biggest charging station and more battery-powered buses


Sajha Yatayat formally inducted 40 new electric buses to its fleet and inaugurated Nepal’s biggest simultaneous charging station for them in Patan on Tuesday.

The 1.1 MW charging station shows that Nepal’s energy transition to renewables is not just environmentally beneficial but also economically viable. The green buses seen on Kathmandu Valley routes are now fully green — running on hydroelectricity that Nepal itself produces and not on imported diesel.

The 40 new e-buses are made by CHTC company in Nanjing and the entire fleet can now be charged at the new charging station.

Kulman Ghising of the Nepal Electricity Authority was on hand at the inauguration and extolled the virtues of going electric, mainly that it is 33 times cheaper to run. However, the capital cost for an electric bus is much higher than diesel and the outlay has to be recovered over a decade of operation. Government tax subsidies for electric public transport would help.

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Nepal Electricity Authority Managing Director Kulman Ghising. Photo: SUMAN NEPALI

“Focusing on public transport yields a much bigger impact on reducing emissions,” Ghising said. “While the number of private vehicles may be higher, public vehicles run all day.”

Kathmandu’s air quality further plummeted this week with AQI reading 300 and higher. While wildfire smoke was mostly responsible for this instance, petrol and diesel emissions make Kathmandu one of the most polluted cities in the world. 

Replacing them with battery-operated vehicles would help clean up the air.  Electric vehicles are already saving Nepal Rs20 million a day with reduced petroleum consumption. Further reduction in petroleum use by 60-70% would help reduce Nepal’s trade deficit with India.

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Minister for Physical Infrastructure and Transport Raghubir Mahaseth inaugurated the new charging station at Sajha Yataya. Photo: GOPEN RAI

Electric buses, however, are expensive up front even though they are cheaper to operate over time. Sajha bought the 40 buses with Rs3 billion investment from the government.

“The government must promote financial packages as it is too expensive for private companies to go electric at a massive scale on their own,” said Sajha Yatayat chair Kanak Mani Dixit at Tuesday’s event. “Buses charge at night when there is an electricity surplus. We are blessed with  renewable hydro, while most countries have coal-powered electricity.”

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Sajha Yatayat Chair Kanak Mani Dixit. Photo: GOPEN RAI

Night routes and implementation of digital travel cards for commuters would spur Kathmandu’s economy. Electric buses may need to be charged for one hour on longer trips, but solutions exist: a relay system for passengers to swap buses at charging points. 

The inaugural event also showcased a Sajha diesel bus that has been converted to electric. For the moment, the model is only a prototype, made for research and learning purposes.

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A Sajha diesel bus that has been converted to electric. Photo: SUMAN NEPALI

“It is a lot more than just a straight engine swap -- we have also implemented a cooling system,” says engineer Janak Risal who workd on the conversion. “We ran simulations of digital models to see whether having the components in the back made the bus move around too much.”

Sajha worked with the EU-supported SOLUTIONSplus which made prototypes of remodelled Safa-tempos for passengers and cargo. The building team and Sajha are holding a workshop on 25 April to discuss conversion, as well as the viability of manufacturing battery-powered cars in Nepal.

Vishad Onta